Tech Briefs

Centrifugal Adsorption System

Notable features include efficient collection of bioproducts and removal of bubbles. The centrifugal adsorption cartridge system (CACS) is an apparatus that recovers one or more bioproduct(s) from a dilute aqueous solution or suspension flowing from a bioreactor. The CACS can be used both on Earth in unit gravity and in space in low gravity. The CACS can be connected downstream from the bioreactor; alternatively, it can be connected into a flow loop that includes the bioreactor so that the liquid can be recycled. A centrifugal adsorption cartridge in the CACS (see figure) includes two concentric cylinders with a spiral ramp between them. The volume between the inner and outer cylinders, and between the turns of the spiral ramp is packed with an adsorbent material. The inner cylinder is a sieve tube covered with a gas- permeable, hydrophobic membrane.

Posted in: Machinery & Automation, Briefs

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Ultrasonic Apparatus for Pulverizing Brittle Material

Characteristics include light weight, low preload, and low power demand. The figure depicts an apparatus that pulverizes brittle material by means of a combination of ultrasonic and sonic vibration, hammering, and abrasion. The basic design of the apparatus could be specialized to be a portable version for use by a geologist in collecting powdered rock samples for analysis in the field or in a laboratory. Alternatively, a larger benchtop version could be designed for milling and mixing of precursor powders for such purposes as synthesis of ceramic and other polycrystalline materials or preparing powder samples for x-ray diffraction or x-ray fluorescence measurements to determine crystalline structures and compositions. Among the most attractive characteristics of this apparatus are its light weight and the ability to function without need for a large preload or a large power supply: It has been estimated that a portable version could have a mass <0.5 kg, would consume less than 1 W·h of energy in milling a 1-cm 3 volume of rock, and could operate at a preload <10 N.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Liquid-Metal-Fed Pulsed Plasma Thrusters

A short document proposes liquid- metal- fed pulsed plasma thrusters for small spacecraft. The propellant liquid for such a thruster would be a low- melting- temperature metal that would be stored molten in an unpressurized, heated reservoir and would be pumped to the thruster by a magneto- hydrodynamic coupler. The liquid would enter the thruster via a metal tube inside an electrically insulating ceramic tube. A capacitor would be connected between the outlet of the metal tube and the outer electrode of the thruster. The pumping would cause a drop of liquid to form at the outlet, eventually growing large enough to make contact with the outer electrode. Contact would close the circuit through the capacitor, causing the capacitor to discharge through the drop. The capacitor would have been charged with enough energy that the discharge would vaporize, ionize, and electromagnetically accelerate the contents of the metal drop. The resulting plasma would be ejected at a speed of about 50 km/s. The vaporization of the drop would reopen the circuit through the capacitor, enabling recharging of the capacitor. As pumping continued, a new drop would grow and the process would repeat.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Attitude Control for a Solar-Sail Spacecraft

A report describes the personal radiation protection system (PRPS), which has been invented for use on the International Space Station and other spacecraft. The PRPS comprises walls that can be erected inside spacecraft, where and when needed, to reduce the amount of radiation to which personnel are exposed. The basic structural modules of the PRPS are pairs of 1-in. (2.54-cm)-thick plates of high-density polyethylene equipped with fasteners. The plates of each module are assembled with a lap joint. The modules are denoted bricks. A report discusses the attitude-control system of a proposed spacecraft that would derive at least part of its propulsion from a solar sail. The spacecraft would include a bus module containing three or more reaction wheels, a boom attached at one end to the bus module and attached at its other end to a two-degree-of-freedom (DOF) gimbal at the nominal center of mass of a sail module. Each DOF of the gimbal could be independently locked against rotation or allowed to rotate freely. By using the reaction wheels to rotate the bus when at least one gimbal DOF was in the free state, the center of mass (CM) of the spacecraft could be shifted relative to the center of pressure (CP) on the solar sail. The resulting offset between the CM and CP would result in a solar torque, which could be used to change the attitude of the spacecraft. The report discusses numerous aspects of the dynamics and kinematics of the spacecraft, along with the relationships between these aspects and the designs of such attitude-control-system components as sensors, motors, brakes, clutches, and gimbals.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Determining Sizes of Particles in a Flow From DPIV Data

The same equipment would be used to measure sizes as well as velocities. A proposed method of measuring the size of particles entrained in a flow of a liquid or gas would involve utilization of data from digital particle-image velocimetry (DPIV) of the flow. That is to say, with proper design and operation of a DPIV system, the DPIV data could be processed according to the proposed method to obtain particle sizes in addition to particle velocities.

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Faster Processing for Inverting GPS Occultation Data

A document outlines a computational method that can be incorporated into two prior methods used to invert Global Positioning System (GPS) occultation data [signal data acquired by a low-Earth-orbiting satellite as either this or the GPS satellite rises above or falls below the horizon] to obtain information on altitude-dependent properties of the atmosphere. The two prior inversion methods, known as back propagation and canonical transform, are computationally expensive because for each occultation, they involve numerical evaluation of a large number of diffraction-like spatial integrals. The present method involves an angular-spectrum-based phase-extrapolation approximation in which each data point is associated with a plane-wave component that propagates in a unique direction from the orbit of the receiving satellite to intersect a straight line tangent to the orbit at a nearby point. This approximation enables the use of fast Fourier transforms (FFTs), which apply only to data collected along a straight-line trajectory. The computation of the diffraction-like integrals in the angular-spectrum domain by use of FFTs takes only seconds, whereas previously, it took minutes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Framework for Development of Object-Oriented Software

The Real-Time Control (RTC) Application Framework is a high-level software framework written in C++ that supports the rapid design and implementation of object-oriented application programs. This framework provides built-in functionality that solves common software development problems within distributed client-server, multi-threaded, and embedded programming environments. When using the RTC Framework to develop software for a specific domain, designers and implementers can focus entirely on the details of the domain-specific software rather than on creating custom solutions, utilities, and frameworks for the complexities of the programming environment. The RTC Framework was originally developed as part of a Space Shuttle Launch Processing System (LPS) replacement project called Checkout and Launch Control System (CLCS). As a result of the framework's development, CLCS software development time was reduced by 66 percent. The framework is generic enough for developing applications outside of the launch-processing system domain. Other applicable high-level domains include command and control systems and simulation/training systems.

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